Guthlac of Crowland

Saint Guthlac of Crowland (Old English: Gūðlāc; Latin: Guthlacus; 674 – 3 April 715 AD) was a Christian saint from Lincolnshire in England. He is particularly venerated in the Fens of eastern England.

Saint Guthlac of Crowland
St Guthlac, Croyland Abbey
St Guthlac holding the scourge given to him by St Bartholomew, with a demon lying at his feet. A 15th-century statue from the second tier of the ruined nave of Croyland Abbey
Kingdom of Mercia
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast11 April


Beginning of Felix's Life of St Guthlac, 8C, Parker Library, Corpus Christi College

Guthlac was the son of Penwalh or Penwald, a noble of the English kingdom of Mercia, and his wife Tette. His sister is also venerated as Saint Pega. As a young man, he fought in the army of Æthelred of Mercia and subsequently became a monk at Repton Monastery in Derbyshire at the age of 24, under the Abbess. (Repton was a double monastery.) Two years later he sought to live the life of a hermit, and moved out to the island of Croyland, now called Crowland on St Bartholomew's Day, AD 699. His early biographer Felix asserts that Guthlac could understand the strimulentes loquelas ("sibilant speech")[1] of the British-speaking demons who haunted him there, only because Guthlac had spent some time in exile among Celtic Britons.[2]

Guthlac built a small oratory and cells in the side of a plundered barrow on the island, and he lived there until his death on 11 April in AD 714. Felix, writing within living memory of Guthlac, described his hermit's life:

Now there was in the said island a mound built of clods of earth which greedy comers to the waste had dug open, in the hope of finding treasure there; in the side of this there seemed to be a sort of cistern, and in this Guthlac the man of blessed memory began to dwell, after building a hut over it. From the time when he first inhabited this hermitage this was his unalterable rule of life: namely to wear neither wool nor linen garments nor any other sort of soft material, but he spent the whole of his solitary life wearing garments made of skins. So great indeed was the abstinence of his daily life that from the time when he began to inhabit the desert he ate no food of any kind except that after sunset he took a scrap of barley bread and a small cup of muddy water. For when the sun reached its western limits, then he thankfully tasted some little provision for the needs of this mortal life.

Guthlac suffered from ague and marsh fever.

His pious and holy ascetic life became the talk of the land, and many people visited Guthlac during his life to seek spiritual guidance from him. He gave sanctuary to Æthelbald, future king of Mercia, who was fleeing from his cousin Ceolred. Guthlac predicted that Æthelbald would become king, and Æthelbald promised to build him an abbey if his prophecy became true. Æthelbald did become king and, even though Guthlac had died two years previously, kept his word and started construction of Crowland Abbey on St Bartholomew's Day AD 716. Guthlac's feast day is celebrated on 11 April.

St Guthlac, tormented by demons, is handed a scourge by St Bartholomew, Guthlac Roll, 1210, British Library
St.Guthlac's Cross - - 593623
St Guthlac's cross from c 1200, inscribed Hanc Petra Guthlac ..., marked the boundary of Crowland Abbey

The 8th-century Latin Vita sancti Guthlaci is written by Felix, who describes the entry of the demons into Guthlac's cell:[3][4]

They were ferocious in appearance, terrible in shape with great heads, long necks, thin faces, yellow complexions, filthy beards, shaggy ears, wild foreheads, fierce eyes, foul mouths, horses' teeth, throats vomiting flames, twisted jaws, thick lips, strident voices, singed hair, fat cheeks, pigeons breasts, scabby thighs, knotty knees, crooked legs, swollen ankles, splay feet, spreading mouths, raucous cries. For they grew so terrible to hear with their mighty shriekings that they filled almost the whole intervening space between earth and heaven with their discordant bellowings.

Felix records Guthlac's foreknowledge of his own death, conversing with angels in his last days. At the moment of death a sweet nectar-like odour emanated from his mouth, as his soul departed from his body in a beam of light while the angels sang. Guthlac had requested a lead coffin and linen winding sheet from Ecgburh, Abbess of Repton Abbey, so that his funeral rites could be performed by his sister Pega. Arriving the day after his death, she found the island of Crowland filled with the scent of ambrosia. She buried the body on the mound after three days of prayer. A year later Pega had a divine calling to move the tomb and relics to a nearby chapel: Guthlac's body was discovered uncorrupted, his shroud shining with light. Subsequently Guthlac appeared in a miraculous vision to Æthelbald, prophesying he would be future King of Mercia.[5] The cult of Guthlac continued amongst a monastic community at Crowland, with the eventual foundation of Crowland Abbey as a Benedictine Order in 971. Because of a series of fires at the abbey, few records survive from prior to the 12th century. It is known that in 1136 the remains of Guthlac were moved once more and that finally in 1196 his shrine was placed above the main altar.[6]

A short Old English sermon (Vercelli XXIII) and a longer prose translation into Old English are both based on Felix's Vita. There are also two poems in Old English known as Guthlac A and Guthlac B, part of the tenth century Exeter Book, the oldest surviving collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The relationship of Guthlac A to Felix's Vita is debated, but Guthlac B is based on Felix's account of the saint's death.

The story of Saint Guthlac is told pictorially in the Guthlac Roll, a set of detailed illustrations of the early 13th century; it is kept in the British Library and copies are on display in Crowland Abbey.

Another account, also dating from after the Norman Conquest, was included in the Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, which like the Guthlac Roll was commissioned by the abbot of Crowland Abbey. At a time when it was being challenged by the crown, the abbey relied significantly on the cult of Guthlac, which made it a place of pilgrimage and healing. That is reflected in a shift in the emphasis from the earlier accounts of Felix and others. The post-conquest accounts portray him as a defender of the church rather than a saintly ascetic; instead of dwelling in an ancient burial mound, they depict Guthlac overseeing the building of a brick and stone chapel on the site of the abbey.[7]

The St Guthlac Fellowship

Quatrefoil, St. Guthlac, Croyland Abbey
Crowland Abbey's 13th century quatrefoil with scenes from the life of St Guthlac.

Formed in 1987, St Guthlac Fellowship is a group of churches sharing a dedication to St Guthlac. It consists of:[8]



Roundel from Guthlac Roll, 1210: Guthlac in contemplation


Roundel from Guthlac Roll, 1210: Guthlac builds a chapel at Crowland

Croyland Abbey & Parish Church of Crowland

Crowland Abbey

Croyland Abbey Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms at Crowland Abbey show scourges and the flaying knives of St Bartholomew


St Guthlac, stained glass, Crowland Abbey

Little Cowarne church and graveyard - - 1005928

St Guthlac's Church (12C), Little Cowarne, Herefordshire

St. Guthlac, the parish church of Astwick - - 1281480

St Guthlac's Church, Astwick, Bedfordshire

St Guthlac's Church, Stathern

St Guthlac's Church, Stathern, Leicestershire

St Guthlacs church

St Guthlac's Church, Market Deeping, Lincolnshire

St.Guthlac's church, Little Ponton, Lincs. - - 144537

St Guthlac's Church, Little Ponton, Lincolnshire

St.Guthlac's church, Fishtoft - - 147445

St Guthlac's Church, Fishtoft, Lincolnshire

Church of St Guthlac, Branston - - 1745446

All Saints' Church, Branston, Lincolnshire

St. Guthlac's, Passenham - - 1011237

St Guthlac's Church, Passenham, Northamptonshire

See also


  1. ^ Colgrave 1985
  2. ^ H. R. Loyn, Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman conquest, 2nd ed. 1991:11.
  3. ^ Cohen, Jeffrey J. (2003), Medieval identity machines, Medieval cultures, 35, University of Minnesota Press, p. 149, ISBN 0-8166-4002-5, Chapter IV, The Solitude of Guthlac
  4. ^ Colgrave, Bertram (1985), Felix's Life of Saint Guthlac, Cambridge University Press, p. 103, ISBN 0-521-31386-4
  5. ^ Williams 2006, pp. 205–206
  6. ^ Roberts 2005
  7. ^ Black 2007
  8. ^ St Guthlac Fellowship

Further reading

Primary sources
  • Felix, Vita Sancti Guthlaci, early 8th-century Latin prose Life of St Guthlac:
    • Colgrave, Bertram (ed. and tr.). Felix's Life of Saint Guthlac. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956.
  • Old English prose translation/adaptation (late 9th or early 10th century) of the Life of St Guthlac by Felix:
    • Gonser, P. (ed.). Das angelsächsische Prosa-Leben des heiligen Guthlac. Anglistische Forschungen 27. Heidelberg, 1909.
    • Goodwin, Charles Wycliffe (ed. and tr.) The Anglo-Saxon Version of the Life of St. Guthlac, Hermit of Crowland. London, 1848.
  • Two chapters from the Old English prose adaptation as incorporated into Vercelli Homily 23.
    • Scragg, D.G. (ed.) The Vercelli Homilies and Related Texts. EETS 300. Oxford: University Press, 1992.
  • Guthlac A and Guthlac B (Old English poems):
    • Roberts, Jane (ed.) The Guthlac Poems of the Exeter Book. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.
    • Krapp, G. and E. V. K. Dobbie (eds.). The Exeter Book. Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3. 1936. 49–88
    • Bradley, S. A. J. (tr.) Anglo-Saxon Poetry. London: Everyman, 1982.
    • Muir, Bernard J. (2000), The Exeter anthology of Old English poetry: an edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501 (2nd ed.), University of Exeter Press, ISBN 0-85989-630-7
  • Harley Roll or Guthlac Roll (BL, Harleian Roll Y.6)
    • Warner, G.F. (ed.). The Guthlac Roll. Roxburghe Club, 1928. 25 plates in facsimile.
Secondary sources
  • Black, John R. (2007), "Tradition and Transformation in the Cult of St. Guthlac in Early Medieval England", The Heroic Age, 10
  • Cubitt, Catherine. "Memory and narrative in the cult of early Anglo-Saxon saints" The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Matthew Innes
  • Olsen, Alexandra. Guthlac of Croyland: a Study of Heroic Hagiography. Washington, 1981
  • Powell, Stephen D. "The Journey Forth: Elegiac Consolation in Guthlac B." English Studies 79 (1998), pp. 489–500
  • Roberts, Jane. "The Old English Prose Translation of Felix’s Vita Sancti Guthlaci" Studies in Earlier Old English Prose: Sixteen Original Contributions, ed. Paul E. Szarmach. Albany, 1986, pp. 363–379
  • Roberts, Jane. "An inventory of early Guthlac materials" Mediaeval Studies 32 (1970), pp. 193–233
  • Sharma, Manish. "A Reconsideration of Guthlac A: The Extremes of Saintliness". Journal of English and Germanic Philology 101 (2002), pp. 185–200.
  • Shook, Laurence K. "The Burial Mound in 'Guthlac A'". Modern Philology 58, 1 (August 1960), pp. 1–10
  • Soon Ai, Low. "Mental Culturation in Guthlac B". Neophilologus 81 (1997), pp. 625–636
  • Roberts, Jane. "Guthlac of Crowland, a Saint for Middle England." Fursey Occasional Paper 3. Norwich: Fursey Pilgrims, 2009. 1–36. [1]
  • Williams, Howard (2006), Death And Memory in Early Medieval Britain, Cambridge Studies in Archaeology, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-84019-8
  • Roberts, Jane (2005), Brown, Michelle P.; Farr, Carol Ann (eds.), Hagiography and literature: the case of Guthlac of Crowland, Mercia: An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom In Europe, Continuum International, pp. 69–86, ISBN 0-8264-7765-8

External links


Year 673 (DCLXXIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. The denomination 673 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Abbot of Crowland

The Abbot of Crowland was the head of Crowland Abbey, an English monastery built up around the shrine of Saint Guthlac of Crowland by King Æthelbald of Mercia, and refounded as a Benedictine house circa 948. The last abbot was John Wells (also called John Bridges), who handed the monastery over to The Crown and dissolution in 1539.

Cissa of Crowland

Cissa of Crowland was a saint in the medieval Fenlands. He was the successor of Guthlac as abbot of Crowland, and is mentioned in Felix' Vita Guthlaci. According to the Crowland Chronicle his tomb was next to Guthlac's, and like the tomb of Guthlac, was destroyed by the Scandinavians. His relics were translated to Thorney Abbey in the 10th-century.


Dachuna was a medieval virgin saint venerated in Cornwall. Probably British in origin, Dachuna is known from the list of resting-places of Hugh Candidus, authored c. 1155. Dachuna, along with Medan and Credan, were allegedly associates of Saint Petroc, whom they rested alongside at the church of Bodmin.

Ecgberht of Ripon

Saint Ecgberht (or Egbert) (died 729) was an Anglo-Saxon monk of Northumbria and Bishop of Lindisfarne.

Elfin of Warrington

Elfin of Warrington is a little-known saint venerated in medieval Warrington, near the modern city of Liverpool. He is known only from one entry in the Domesday Book, his cult or church holding one carucate of land. The name is Brittonic, derived from Latin Alpinus.


The Iclingas (also Iclings or House of Icel) were a dynasty of Kings of Mercia during the 7th and 8th centuries, named for Icel or Icil, great-grandson of Offa of Angel, a legendary or semi-legendary figure of the Migration Period who was in turn made to descend from Woden by the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies.The Iclingas reached the height of their power under Offa of Mercia (r. 757–796), who achieved hegemony over the other Anglo-Saxon states, and proclaimed himself "King of the English", but the dynasty lost control of Mercia soon after his death.

Penda, who became king of Mercia in about 626 and is the first king named in the regnal lists of the Anglian collection, and at the same time the last pagan king of Mercia, gave rise to a dynasty that supplied at least eleven kings to the throne of Mercia. Four additional monarchs were given an Icling pedigree in later genealogical sources but are now believed to have descended from the family by way of Penda's sister.

Icel himself is of debatable historicity; according to Nicholas Brooks, if historical he would have lived sometime between 450 and 525 and was probably considered the founder of the dynasty because he was the first of his line in Britain. Despite the Icelingas' claims of ties with the rulers and mythic heroes of continental Angeln and with the war-god Woden, Brooks suggests that the Icelingas were, before Penda's rise in prominence, no more and no less royal than any of the other ruling houses of the small Midlands peoples as recorded in the Tribal Hidage and assessed as having between 300 and 600 hides of land.

Icel's ancestry in genealogical tradition is as follows: Icel son of Eomer son of Angeltheow son of Offa son of Wermund son of Wihtlæg son, grandson or great-grandson of Woden.

In this tradition, Icel is the leader of the Angles who migrated to Britain. Icel is then separated from the establishment of Mercia by three generations: Icel's son was Cnebba, whose son was Cynewald, whose son was Creoda, first king of Mercia.

Matthew Paris s.a. 527 reports, "pagans came from Germania and occupied East Anglia... some of whom invaded Mercia and fought many battles with the British[.]" This date, however, should perhaps be amended to 515.

The Vita Sancti Guthlaci ("Life of Saint Guthlac") reports Guthlac of Crowland to have been son of Penwalh, a Mercian who could trace his pedigree back to Icel.Several place names in England have been suggested as derived from the name of Icel or the Iclingas, including Icklingham, Ickleford, Ickleton and Ixworth. Norman Scarfe noted that the Icknield Way had early spellings Icenhylte weg and Icenhilde weg and suggested a connection between Icklingham and the Iceni, although Warner (1988) has cast doubt on the identification. The name Iclinga survives as "Hickling" and several similar spellings.


Milred (died 774) (also recorded as Mildred and Hildred) was an Anglo-Saxon prelate who served as Bishop of Worcester from circa 744 until his death in 774.


Peakirk is a civil parish in the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom. For local government purposes it forms part of Newborough ward; for parliamentary purposes it falls within Peterborough constituency. In 2001, the parish had a population of 321 persons and 139 households.Saint Pega (died c. 719) the sister of Saint Guthlac of Crowland, had a hermitage here. The parish church is uniquely dedicated to St Pega and the name of the village is derived from "Pega's church". The church is a Grade I listed building and has a fine series of wall paintings. It is said that her heart was kept as a relic in the church, contained in a heart stone, the broken remains of which, smashed by Cromwell's troops, can be seen in the south aisle window.The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, founded by Sir Peter Scott in 1946 to preserve and maintain Britain's many species of waterfowl, had a reserve here until 2001.Glinton cum Peakirk Church of England (Voluntary Aided) Primary School is situated in neighbouring Glinton; secondary pupils attend Arthur Mellows Village College also in Glinton.

Peakirk also has an unusual war memorial. An oak-panelled frame with 48 photographs and details of the service of all who served from the village during the First World War, and not just those who died.


This article is about the Christian saint. For the customer relationship management and business process management software see Pegasystems.

Pega (c. 673-c.719), is a Christian saint who was an anchoress in the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and the sister of Saint Guthlac.

Saint Aldate

Saint Aldate (died 577) was a bishop of Gloucester, venerated as a saint with the feast day of February 4. Aldate's life is not detailed historically, but he was probably a Briton killed by the Anglo-Saxons at Deorham. He is reported to have roused the countryside to resist pagan invasion forces. He is mentioned in the Sarum and other martyrologies; his feast occurs in a Gloucester calendar (14th-century addition); churches were dedicated to him at Gloucester and Oxford, as well as a famous Oxford street: St Aldate's, Oxford and a minor street in Gloucester. But nothing seems to be known of him: it was even suggested that his name was a corruption of 'old gate'.

Saint Beccel

Bettelin of Crowland, also known as Beccel, was an 8th century hermit and saint of Crowland, and a follower of Guthlac.

Saint Sidwell

Sidwell (Latin: Sativola) was a virgin saint from the English county of Devon, possibly of British origin. Her historical existence is not well established.

Stathern, Leicestershire

Stathern is an English village and civil parish in the Melton district of Leicestershire. It lies in the Vale of Belvoir about 10 miles (16 km) north of Melton Mowbray.

Wulfsige of Sherborne

Wulfsige was a ninth-century Bishop of Sherborne.

Ælfthryth of Crowland

Ælfthryth, also known as Alfreda or Etheldritha, is a saint, venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, as a virgin, and recluse. She was a daughter of King Offa of Mercia.

Ælfwald I of Northumbria

Ælfwald (born 759-767 AD) was king of Northumbria from 779 to 788. He is thought to have been a son of Oswulf, and thus a grandson of Eadberht Eating.

Ælfwald became king after Æthelred son of Æthelwald Moll was deposed in 778. He was murdered, probably at Chesters, by ealdorman Sicga on 23 September 788. He was buried at Hexham Abbey where he was considered a saint.

Ælfwald was succeeded by his first cousin Osred, son of Alhred and Osgifu daughter of Eadberht Eating. Ælfwald's sons Ælf and Ælfwine were killed in 791 on the orders of King Æthelred.

Æthelburh of Barking

Saint Æthelburh (died after 686) or Ethelburga, founder and first Abbess of the double monastery of Barking, was the sister of Earconwald, Bishop of London.


Æthelgar (died 990) was Archbishop of Canterbury, and previously Bishop of Selsey.

British / Welsh
East Anglian
East Saxon
and Old Saxon
Irish and Scottish
South Saxon
West Saxon
Unclear origin


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